Like much of the world, Latin America is still being rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many countries facing severe ongoing restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. Yet the global vaccine rollout that has now begun gives cause for hope, and as the region looks towards social and economic recovery from the turmoil of the past year, growing tech scenes will be important to recovery efforts.
As many of the region’s governments had already come to understand before the pandemic, the tech sector represents an important source of skilled job creation while offering innovative solutions to many of the problems faced by businesses and consumers. In recent years, many innovation hot spots have emerged across the region.
Such innovation is especially important in the context of the “new normal” and the style of working life that was thrust upon us by the pandemic and which is unlikely ever to return to what it was. Humanity will overcome the virus but the accelerated processes of automation and digitization, and patterns of increased remote working that the pandemic has brought about are – in many cases – here to stay.
This change is also likely to bring about more outsourcing, as companies increasingly seek to make savings on payroll by hiring staff overseas via a professional employer organization (PEO).
Innovation is especially important in the context of the “new normal” and the style of working life that was thrust upon us by the pandemic and which is unlikely ever to return to what it was
Meanwhile, tech companies that have continued growing during the pandemic – either because they offer a service more in demand during the tumult, or because they have been able to adapt to the new circumstances – can be expected to continue on their upward trajectories.
Recently at Biz Latin Hub, we have been running a series of articles looking at tech companies in many of the 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where we have offices. Here, one tech company from each of four countries across the northern Andean region – Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru – has been picked out to showcase their individual success during the pandemic, as well as to highlight broader trends that have emerged in the context of the global health crisis.
E-commerce has seen major growth on a global level during the pandemic, as people living under restrictions have been forced to shop online. Colombia’s Blacksip has been well positioned to capitalize on that shift in Latin America.
Blacksip focuses on helping businesses in Latin America move to online sales via the establishment and management of an e-commerce channel. The company has offices in Mexico and Peru and in January 2021 announced its arrival in Ecuador.
According to María Paula Silva, Blacksip’s Country Manager in Colombia, some of the company’s clients in Colombia reported up to 500% growth in online sales during the pandemic. Having grown 35% in 2020 to reach US$5.4 billion during 2020, e-commerce sales in the country expected to increase 20% in 2021. Blacksip and many of its clients can be expected to continue growing in 2021 and beyond.
Creotec is an example of a company that has managed to quickly adapt to the pandemic and shift its operational focus not only to survive but also to offer up an innovative solution to a major public health problem associated with the virus – the lack of availability of affordable respirators – too.
A company dedicated to manufacturing affordable prosthetic limbs for those with limited economic resources, Creotec responded to the pandemic by developing its “Meditec” respirator.
This endeavor proved successful. After being trialed in May 2020, the respirator was available throughout Bolivia by the end of August. By the end of the year, Creotec had received orders for the devices from elsewhere in Latin America, and the United States and Europe. This initial success suggests the company has a lot more growing to do.
These four companies not only represent examples of growth in adverse times, but in many cases exemplify the way professional life has become more digital
Dos was established 30 years ago and so is no newbie to the Ecuadorian market, but it is an example of a company whose product or service has come to the fore during the pandemic, facilitating growth despite the general hardship.
Dos offers cloud computing and state-of-the-art perimeter protection, as well as data center, WAN network and IT infrastructure management from its offices around the country. On top of those services, Dos has a successful consulting operation focused on technology and best practices around IT use and data management.
The pandemic has seen the demand for the services offered by Dos increase dramatically, as businesses moved further online, people increasingly worked from home and the public increasingly turned to e-commerce. With such patterns unlikely to reverse in the aftermath of the pandemic, Dos will continue to find demand growing for its services.
It would be remiss to consider tech firms that have fared well during the pandemic without considering a company in the education technology space, given the major shift to online learning that has been witnessed around the world for students of all ages. On top of which the increased free time people have been spending at home has also created a larger customer base for online learning.
In Peru, Crehana has been one of the major beneficiaries of this trend, growing to have 3.5 million users during the pandemic and reporting a 48% increase in browsing time with tablets. Crehana partnered up with Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) during the pandemic to offer more specialist courses on top of the 500 it already provides.
The company’s growth has seen it move beyond Peru and into other countries in the region, with a recent campaign from the company offering 1,000 scholarships for online courses in Colombia. The growth of the company saw it raise US$17.5 million during a recent investment round and highlighted the strong prospects in the edtech space and the bright future Crehana can expect.